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NoahBriggs
02-09-2008, 05:11 PM
Not again!! (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290205094096)

WHY WOULD YOU CHEW ON SOMETHING THAT SMALL AND HARD WHEN A PIECE OF LEATHER OR ROPE WOULD WORK BETTER AND BE LESS LIKELY TO SWALLOW?

Jas. Cox
02-09-2008, 05:48 PM
I still have to come up with a medical myth talk for my civil war round table in March. :( :confused: I will use the info from a previous thread, but if anyone has any specific ideas and references ... :D

mmartin4600
02-09-2008, 06:16 PM
Did they know the Heimlich maneuver back then? Because guarantee, if someone was biting on that for pain, they were going to choke on it.

Gary
02-09-2008, 06:39 PM
Why is it a myth? ;) [1950 high school science film voice] After all, heavy metals are your friends[/1950 high school science film voice].

NoahBriggs
02-09-2008, 07:01 PM
Read the first post on this thread, and check the thread on top medical myths.

hanktrent
02-09-2008, 09:09 PM
I've run across a few mentions of soldiers biting on a bullet to prevent them from crying out, back in the days when whipping was a punishment.

But more stuff is online for searching now. Check this out. It's from an essay about the emotional turmoil a doctor goes through, facing life and death among his patients:


In thus running the gauntlet of reproaches on the one hand, and envious joy on the other, [the physician] must sustain himself by his conscious innocence, as men who are undergoing operations or suffering pain bite a bullet to prevent them crying out.

Citation: The Moral Aspects of Medical Life consisting of the 'Akesios' of Professor K.F.H. Marx, translated from the German with biographical notices and illustrative remarks by James Mackness, M.D., London, 1846 http://books.google.com/books?id=BDEEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA60

Both author and translator were doctors:

Karl Friedrich Heinrich Marx, M.D. (1796-1877) was a professor at the University of Gottingen, who lectured and wrote on medicine. No, not the Karl Marx.

James Mackness, M.D. (1804-1851) was educated as a surgeon in Edinburgh and was a consulting physician to the Hastings Dispensary and an active member of the (British) Medical and Surgical Association.

In other words, people who ought to know what they're talking about, writing in the pre-anaesthesia era, use biting on a bullet during surgery as a metaphor, as if it's a well-known thing.

I have no idea what it means. Might be worth keeping an open mind about this one a bit longer though.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Jim Mayo
02-10-2008, 11:20 AM
Having dug numerous of these so called pain bullets it is my opinion that the chew marks were caused by animals. I hunted an abandoned pig pen once and most all the bullets exhibited these chew marks. The ones outside of the pen did not. Occasionally you find a bullet with chew marks in the woods but usually with unchewed ones around it. Must have been an escaped pig passing through.

Jas. Cox
02-10-2008, 11:44 AM
Having dug numerous of these so called pain bullets it is my opinion that the chew marks were caused by animals. I hunted an abandoned pig pen once and most all the bullets exhibited these chew marks. The ones outside of the pen did not. Occasionally you find a bullet with chew marks in the woods but usually with unchewed ones around it. Must have been an escaped pig passing through.

I think the pig explanation is the most commonly used and plausible. However, I have been told, as I am no expert, that pigs would not just chew on a piece of lead as they wouldn't find it to their liking. But, if it were inside something fleshy and dead, say a slain soldier, they might chew on it as they were eating the flesh and of course spit it out or pass it, if it got swallowed.

Noah makes sense when he mentioned that a piece of leather would be more likely on something on which to bite. I would add that a piece of lead, although soft and plentiful, would have been better served in a musket. Furthermore, as anesthetics were readily available (maybe not so much for confederates especially in the later part of the war), there would only be occasional need for pain biting. These times being when a surgeons supplies were exhausted and the wounds were not. Note that this is all speculation on my part.

hanktrent
02-10-2008, 01:38 PM
There are lots of overlapping possibilities here:


All bullets found on Civil War battlefields with tooth marks were bitten by soldiers. (that's generally rejected)
The bullets were generally bitten by pigs, but soldiers did bite on bullets sometimes.
Civil War soldiers had heard the metaphor of biting on bullets but didn't actually do it (just like us today).
Civil War soldiers had never even heard of the concept of biting bullets nor did they do it.
Soldiers sometimes bit bullets for pain, but in wars previous to the Civil War.
Soldiers sometimes bit bullets to endure corporal punishment, but not for other kinds of pain like wounds.Aside from the first premise, which I think is generally rejected, which of the others do you (anyone) think is closest to the truth?

Here's another question. In the era before both general anaesthesia, and even in the Civil War era when there was no local anaesthesia for more minor surgeries, what can we actually document as being used for dealing with the acute pain during the operation? Honestly, it's not something I've seen mentioned much. Common sense can be used to speculate, but are there any actual period descriptions or advice?

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Marc
02-11-2008, 09:40 AM
Hank has hit on a good question and this spring I will be starting some serious research into pre civil war medicine and surgery.

From a common sense point of view (my opinion from various readings) pre civil war suregey usually used a bite stick or leather or cloth for one to bite into. The patient was drugged if available and in a lot of cases passed out from the pain and of course could re awaken during the surgery. The most common surgeries were the amputation since entering the body was known to cause in death in most cases.

I no longer have the book on John Adams but his daughter does have a double mastectomy and lives for 6 months. Can't remember if the surgery in detail is described.

In my humble opinion I would state bite the bullet did occur a few times especially before the civil war, but was not common practice.

hanktrent
02-11-2008, 11:10 AM
I was looking at The Journals of William A. Lindsey, a reprint of an Indiana doctor's journal with several 1830s procedures. As usual, he doesn't describe what the patient actually does to cope with the pain, although he acknowledges it:


p. 77: I was fully 2 hours in dilating the uterus, and fully another hour in detaching the placenta... The operation was attended by excruciating suffering to the patient, and it felt sometimes fearful that she would be unable to bear up under it, and I was several times compelled to desist a short time owing to the exhausted and sinking exacerbations induced by the operation.

p.66: Having made known to him... the necesity of an operation, I shall never forget the earnestness with which he emplored me not to operate on him. and he so far worked on my feelings & sympathies that it was with much difficulty that I could man my self up to the operating point; I had a son at home near his size & age, and could not help anticipating what my feelings would have been, had this unfortunate boy been my own son thus emploringly pleading with me not to operate on him... But I was much encouraged in the operation which I so reluctently commenced, by the manly resignation & fortitude of my patient, when he found the operation was commenced & would be performed.


There's also the question of whose responsibility was it to deal with the pain? In modern life, I can't ever recall a doctor instructing me how to cope with pain. The dentist comes with the needle: "Just a little pinch," but never says "Be prepared to grip the arms of the chair" or "You can whine and whimper if you want,"--that's supposed to be my responsibility to initiate. :D

So would the doctor say, "Bite down on this while I remove the bullet?" or was the coping method up to the patient?

If the soldier was more familiar with surgery at home, he might remember what grandpa did when he had to have that cancer removed, or whatever. If the soldier was basing his actions on military life, and knew of the tradition of biting a bullet during punishment, he might choose that.

All just speculation, of course... Just different ways of considering the issue.

The biting of bullets by soldiers during corporal punishments seems to be the most common thing discussed in the early 19th century, as far as bullets go, though it's hard to say if the commonness was exaggerated because it's something "everybody knows" they did, or if it's something they actually often did.

However, it occurs to me that during punishment, the smallness of a bullet would be an advantage, because if the goal is to show how brave and stoic you are, biting on anything large enough to be visible would advertise that you needed help to keep from screaming. Also, you'd be standing or lying face-down, thus less apt to swallow it (though surgeries or minor procedures without anaesthesia were sometimes done seated as well).

The following is from the Sketches of Philosophy of Life by Sir T.C. Morgan, M.D., London, 1819.


By the same principle may be explained the very singular fact, that great mental excitement suspends or supersedes the impressions of bodily pain. It elucidates, also, the relief which soldiers seek under punishment, from forcibly biting a bullet. In the latter case, the whole force of volition is expended in exciting the maxillary muscles; and by thus rendering the brain, in some degree, a centre of fluxion, it diminishes the irritability of the tissues, which are torn by the lash of the executioner.


Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Jas. Cox
02-11-2008, 12:55 PM
This just occurred to me reading the above. Wouldn't there be a danger of a patient swallowing, choking on a bullet (piece of lead) during a great groan of pain? (I realize biting down is the supposed use and thus no swallowing, but who alway thinks to bite down in extreme pain?) Wouldn't thus a strap of leather, a stick or something else like a horse bridle make more sense from a patient's welfare perspective?

NoahBriggs
02-11-2008, 01:19 PM
This just occurred to me reading the above. Wouldn't there be a danger of a patient swallowing, choking on a bullet (piece of lead) during a great groan of pain? (I realize biting down is the supposed use and thus no swallowing, but who alway thinks to bite down in extreme pain?) Wouldn't thus a strap of leather, a stick or something else like a horse bridle make more sense from a patient's welfare perspective?

Indeed. This is what I ask people when we discuss the topic at an LH - I ask them what's the first thing someone tends to do when they feel extreme pain. Scream, of course, but more specifically, they open their mouth wide to inhale enough air to do so. It ranges from the clenched-teeth hiss to the sudden gasp, but it's the same thing overall.

If someone has a small object like a musket ball between the teeth it seems likely to me that when/if they open their mouth to make a noise in response to pain they may well dislodge that bullet they are biting and depending on the position it either falls onto the ground/floor or falls back into the gullet -esophagus or trachea. A larger item, more soft, ie leather strap or chunk of rope can be cut wider than the average mouth, so if the patient does open their mouth involuntarily, it's less likely for the gag to slip.

It seems like common sense to me. Of course evidence has been presented that it may have happened before the war, and after reviewing it I may very well revise my discussions on the subject.

I know, citing movies is poor citation, but Master and Commander had the surgeon using a large mouth gag and some laudanum on a midshipman before he removed the boy's arm. I actually stood up in the theater and yelled "Yess! They got it right for a change!!" when I saw the scene. I ignored the stares, though a side benefit was getting a whole row to myself - very sudden-like. :cool:

Marc
02-11-2008, 03:29 PM
I know, citing movies is poor citation, but [I]Master and Commander had the surgeon using a large mouth gag and some laudanum on a midshipman before he removed the boy's arm. I actually stood up in the theater and yelled "Yess! They got it right for a change!!" when I saw the scene. I ignored the stares, though a side benefit was getting a whole row to myself - very sudden-like. :cool:

Masters and Commanders had the medicine of the time period very accurate. I was also impressed by the medical scenes and how accurate they appeared to be.

As to the correct rigging of the ship...a friend of mine who is into that ships of that timeperiod told me some of the rigging on the ships was incorrect for that period of time. Just goes to show we are not the only time who is into accuarte information and movies.

TimKindred
02-11-2008, 04:39 PM
Comrades,

FWIW, in "A Soldier of the 71st", which is a wonderful period account of a private's service during the Napoleonic War, there is mention of viewing a soldier being lashed, and he is given a piece of leather to bite down on.

It is also interesting to note that doctors at the VA Hospital here have also reccomended a small strip of leather for patients to chew upon when dealing with chronic pain. I kid you not. One of my close friends who is also a patient there uses this technique as part of his physical therapy. He believes it also gives him a psychological benefit when dealing with the rehadilitation, as well as the chronic pain.

respects,

mboyce
02-11-2008, 05:34 PM
What about the ball itself? The e-bay description says that it is a .44 cal round ball. What civil war era weapon could that possibly have been used in? A private weapon from home? It's a little too small for a .45 pistol, and too big for a .36.
It just seems like and odd projectile to find around a civil war surgery.

reb64
02-12-2008, 07:15 AM
What about the ball itself? The e-bay description says that it is a .44 cal round ball. What civil war era weapon could that possibly have been used in? A private weapon from home? It's a little too small for a .45 pistol, and too big for a .36.
It just seems like and odd projectile to find around a civil war surgery.
perhaps it was a .44 pistol?

TimKindred
02-12-2008, 09:11 AM
Comrades,

let me add a couple of points here.

1.) Ask yourself thisL Where are all these "pain bullets" coming from? The medical staff certainly isn't hauling around cases of bullets. The soldiers have all of their equipment taken from them (personal items receipted for) when they arrive at the hospital, and many, if not birtually all, have their weapons and accoutrements left behind when they reach the field dressing station, or just dropped in place when picked up by the ambulance or litter bearers. It's excess gear, and excess weight, and the medical staff doesn't want to deal with it.

2.) Where are all these round balls coming from? Virtually all issued pistol ammunition, north or south, was conical ball. The only round ball was either .69, or OO buckshot from buck&vall cartridge, or buckshot rounds. With the number of wounded these facilities treated, finding cartridges and breaking them open to take out the ball so the wounded would have one to "bite" on, would leave a great deal of powder about, with all the attendant hazards that entails. It also takes time, and ahain, where are the cartridges coming from? Almost every account by wounded men speaks of leaving the weapon and accoutrements behind if possible. In many cases, they stripped them off in order to examine their own woulnds before evr seeking aid.

I am personally inclined to disregard any such items as "pain bullets" as being actual medical relics, and attributing them all to spent rounds or dropped rounds being chewed by animals, especially hogs and boar. With the availability, even in CS rmies, of palliative care, and the examination of the logistics of obtaining literally hundreds, if not thousands, of unspent rounds by the medical staff, it's time to put this myth to bed.

Other's mileage mat, of course, vary. Just sayin'...

NoahBriggs
02-12-2008, 09:53 AM
I have a couple of modern .577 caliber minie bullets which I had fired into an embankment during a live fire at a range. I noted when I dug them out that the bullets were deformed, and often had deformations which could be interpreted as teeth marks. Full speed projectiles, spent rounds, riochets, and in some cases through-and-through hits on bodies will deform a minie bullet upon impact. A minie bullet which hits a solid surface such as metal or stone will actually "disappear" in the form of silvery-looking flakes at the base of the stone or metal surface. I witnessed this at the same range I pulled the deformed bullets.

Note to Hollyweird - musket ammunition is made of soft lead. Lead bullets don't spark on impact with metal or stone surfaces. Period. Neither will copper; most modern rounds are copper-jacketed. This is why factories that work with volatile fumes or substances have the workers using copper tools.

At least stop with the sparking bullets nonsense in action movies. Thanks.

Sorry for the off-topic rant.

hanktrent
02-12-2008, 11:01 AM
Remember, I'm not coming at this from the point of view of debunking eBay artifacts. The fact that most pen erasers are fraudulantly sold as Civil War scalpels today, is less interesting to me, than what scalpels were used.

So I'm trying to figure out how to explain away the 19th century mentions of soldiers biting on bullets during punishment, and the quote I posted above about surgery too.

Was it an urban legend even then, that nobody was actually doing? It's possible. Did soldiers ever do it in some past age, either during punishment or medical procedures? How long ago did it become only a legend?

I wonder if the key point is that bullets kept people from screaming, which was important during punishment (shows they can't break your spirit), but not so much during medical procedures, when the doctor was on your side and would either give you anaesthesia or understand if you reacted during a minor procedure where anaesthesia wasn't required.

Perhaps the legend/reality began for punishment--which is where it does show up most in the early 19th century--and today has been shifted into a pure legend about coping with wounds, now that people have forgotten that soldiers ever had to deal with flogging.

For those who've been exposed to injuries in war-like situations, where medical care is delayed or less than ideal, do victims today want to bite on anything for pain? I've never been hurt that bad or seen anyone who is, to know. I don't think it's something I'd choose--I'd rather grip an object with my hands. But I dunno.


1.) Ask yourself thisL Where are all these "pain bullets" coming from? The medical staff certainly isn't hauling around cases of bullets. The soldiers have all of their equipment taken from them (personal items receipted for) when they arrive at the hospital, and many, if not birtually all, have their weapons and accoutrements left behind when they reach the field dressing station,

I don't see that as much of an objection. It's like saying, when a soldier's flogged, he's not wearing his cartridge box, so where does he get a bullet?

Common sense would indicate that he's thinking ahead. If a soldier has already heard from old soldiers that biting a bullet will ease pain, he already knows he's hurt and may need medical procedures when he still has bullets with him

Not saying that anyone actually did it. But biting bullets for punishment shows it's a deliberately pre-planned coping strategy, so if someone wanted to bite a bullet, that's how he'd get it.

On the separate issue of where are these artifacts coming from...


2.) Where are all these round balls coming from? Virtually all issued pistol ammunition, north or south, was conical ball.


I am personally inclined to disregard any such items as "pain bullets" as being actual medical relics, and attributing them all to spent rounds or dropped rounds being chewed by animals, especially hogs and boar.

Hmm... that still leaves open the question of why did hogs primarily chew on round balls, and not conical balls, if conical balls would be the most common spent or dropped rounds?

Now I'm curious about something else. When were the first "pain bullets" being discovered? People were scavenging for battlefield artifacts almost before the bodies were cold. If "pain bullets" were discovered while veterans were still alive, and we could find what veterans believed they were, that would go pretty far toward ascertaining their origin.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Jas. Cox
02-12-2008, 11:12 AM
Let me say first, I'm disinclined to believe that lead bullets were used, or used on a regular basis, as pain management. Otherwise, why not be part of a standard issue medical kit?

Now the Devil's Advocate:

Ask yourself thisL Where are all these "pain bullets" coming from? The medical staff certainly isn't hauling around cases of bullets. The soldiers have all of their equipment taken from them (personal items receipted for) when they arrive at the hospital, and many, if not birtually all, have their weapons and accoutrements left behind when they reach the field dressing station, or just dropped in place when picked up by the ambulance or litter bearers. It's excess gear, and excess weight, and the medical staff doesn't want to deal with it.

Why couldn't a surgeon just carry one in a pocket and use it over and over? It's not like he would be worried about germs.

Noah. 1. Breathe. 2. Suspend disbelief and go to a movie for entertainment value. If it's supposed to be a historically accurate piece and they get something wrong, then okay. :) Guys getting the crap beat out of them and then walking fine in the next scene is not authentic. My mom's pet peeve is that people can drive up to a building in a movie and there is always a parking space.

I'm a photographer (at times) and was in a movie (as an extra) that was semi-historical set in the 1940s. I played a Press Photographer using a Speed Graphic. I wanted to be 100% accurate. Those cameras use a metal film holder. The holder slides in the back. There are two metal film guards (I forget the technical terms) that cover two sheets of film on either side of the film holder. To shot the image, one slides out the film guard closet to the front, takes the image and then flips the guard (the guards are different colors on each side like black and sliver ~ again, it's been a long time) and slides it back in. That tells the photographer that that piece of film has been exposed. Then, the entire film holder is pulled out and flipped so that the other piece of film can be exposed. Even though there was no film, I was doing this during the scene. Movie scenes are shot from many different angles, with and without sound, etc. When they were doing the close-ups on the star and she was doing her dialog and the boom mike was right next to me, the sound guy "asked" me not to make all that noise. And thus ended the true authenticity of the scene. Does anyone but photographers give it any notice at all and then only if they are familiar with that type of camera? Probably not.

God, what was that entire rambling about? :confused: I'd delete it, but it took too long to type.

Things to notice in movies, especially older movies with lower budgets.

• Cars being crashed are much older then the rest of the cars. (Not so much true in newer movies).
• Phone numbers are always 555. An exchange that until recently was never used. I know that's obvious to most of us, but until a few years ago, my best friend hadn't realized it.
• Cars that fly through the air and exploding often don't have engines in them if one looks carefully. (Again mostly old, low budget movies or TV shows)
• Finally, the streets in night scenes are almost always wet no matter what the weather has been. That's because wet streets film nicer.


But as for accurate, I'm reading Gangrene and Glory currently. At some point the author says flags were flown at half-mast. Technically, only on ships are flags flown at half-mast. Elsewhere ashore, flags are flown at half-staff. A minor detail, but what other minor details are incorrect and I just don't know it?

PS ~ Noah started it! :razz:

TimKindred
02-12-2008, 11:17 AM
Hank,


I would put a great deal of the "pain" bullets not all, mind you, but the majority for sale, as modern fakes. Note how few actual conoidal balls show up with teeth marks, but so many round balls do.

To me, it's a sign that someone doesn't know what the majority type of round was, and that these round ball are easy to acquire at the local WalMart. As clever as many of these hucksters are with swords, belt buckles and battle flags, it isn't at all hard to imagine being able to induce teeth marks.

What's needed is an experiment to see just how much muscle power is needed to MAKE the sort of marks being seen. Certainly most hogs and other similar sized critters will have much mire powerful jaws than a human, even under duress, and many of those pain bullets show some pretty serious deformation.

Jas. Cox
02-12-2008, 11:37 AM
Hank,
... What's needed is an experiment to see just how much muscle power is needed to MAKE the sort of marks being seen. Certainly most hogs and other similar sized critters will have much mire powerful jaws than a human, even under duress, and many of those pain bullets show some pretty serious deformation.

Sounds like a MythBusters job to me!

NoahBriggs
02-12-2008, 11:39 AM
PS ~ Noah started it!

Yeah. Movie cliches. I've noticed a lot of them too. Mostly I guffaw out loud and scare those around me for laughing at inappropriate times during the movie.

Back to the bullets.

Hank has a point - I wonder if we could look back and see if the veterans had anything to say about it? Charles Johnson does not mention anything of the sort in Muskets and Medicine which was written post war. (He does go on about how medicine has advanced and if we knew about germs then we'd have saved more lives, &c.) The lack of any mention on bullet-biting during minor procedures would lead me to conclude:

It never happened.

It never happened in his presence, but might have happened elsewhere.

It may have been common enough not to bother mentioning.

None of this is gospel, of course. I'd have to go back and reread to see if it's mentioned.

Edited to add:
Sounds like a MythBusters job to me!
Why not. They tested the old story of the soldier who got shot through the testicles and the bullet carried the genetic material when it hit the woman nearby, thus allowing said genetic material to get her pregnant. Busted, by the way.

hanktrent
02-12-2008, 12:29 PM
Sounds like a MythBusters job to me!
Why not. They tested the old story of the soldier who got shot through the testicles and the bullet carried the genetic material when it hit the woman nearby, thus allowing said genetic material to get her pregnant. Busted, by the way.

I'd like to see that as well. Also bullets covered in something tasty and offered to hogs. Though if hogs are the origin, I can't help thinking, "Do you know where that bullet's been?" I doubt if the hogs spit them all out the front end. :)

Here's something, from Erasmus Darwin, published 1819:


When there appears a tendency to bite in the painful epilepsy, the end of a rolled up towel, or a wedge of soft wood, should be put into the mouth of the patient. As a bullet is said sometimes to be given to a soldier, who is to be severely flogged, that he may, by biting it, better bear his punishment.

1) As Darwin recounts the story/myth, the bullet is given to the soldier (by his floggers?), not something he initiates himself. That's different than I'd pictured, so factor that in.

2) Yet another example of the story being passed around about flogging, not surgery.

Um, off topic again, why did Mythbusters test something that was already admitted to be a hoax in the original magazine?

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

NoahBriggs
02-12-2008, 01:06 PM
Um, off topic again, why did Mythbusters test something that was already admitted to be a hoax in the original magazine?

The story got retold over the years until it became part of, ironically, internet legends. Fortunately there are people not afraid to think for themselves who asked if the event was possibly true.

The Mythbusters, of course, use regular science to recreate certain urban legends to see if something weird were physically possible. If the answer is "no" they go further to see just how much physics are needed to accomplish the act (within reason). I think that either they did not know it had been debunked in the past, or felt it best to ignore it so their experiment would not have some sort of bias, because they do take the time to look up the original material as best as they can.

The Mythbusters called several scenes in Pirates of the Carribbean Chief among those was the use of improvised ammunition in cannon barrels. They shot grapeshot at a pig as a control, and watching it in slow motion I realized, (after wincing) if that patient landed on my table, I'd have several hours of work ahead of me. It got splattered.

They also fired improvised chain, which I guess could represent chain shot in the Navy. It practically tore the dead pig in half.

My Hollywood ballisitics rant was not too far off-topic in that a lot of misinformation (in this case 19th century weapons ballisitics) is perpetuated by Hollywood, and it enters regular society's notions as a "fact" that bullets do some of these things, like spark on impact, hit a gas tank to cause the vehicle to blow up, &c. Most people have the impression that bullets leaving a gun barrel fly straight and true until they hit their target, and are little if ever deformed.

I now speak of nineteenth century weapons when I say it's not always true. Musket balls are not always seated correctly, gas escapes the patch, the minie ball does not lock to the barrel' rifiling grooves, faulty powder, temperature and heat-induced droop of the gun barrel, the angle the soldier holds the musket, all these things affect the ballistic path. Most minies fly out of the gun facing forward but can easily tumble in the air, and the heated lead could shift thebullet's center of gravity to throw their trajectory off. Thus the balls enter the human body at weird angles and speeds enough to do horrific damage, yet not always exit the other side. Of course there are exceptions.

Regardless of the origins, the whole biting the bullet story comes up at interpretations all the time, and the members who hang out at this conference are bright enough to debate it intellectually without degenerating themselves to childish ad hominen and tu quequere attacks. I'd hope to find some sort of explanation either for the origins and/or if it was actually done in a hospital in the course of the war, in a continuing effort to combat ignorance and poor thinking about the medical aspect of the war. That includes my ignorance and poor thinking.

Jas. Cox
02-12-2008, 02:40 PM
They also did a test to see if bullets actually lost energy when hitting water "Bulletproof Water." I don't remember the whole thing, but in general it was confirmed. I'm going to see if I can find it on their website. Please hold.

http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/mythbusters.html

http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/episode/episode_06.html

It was in Episode 51: Bulletproof Water Revisited

Episode 51: Myths Revisited
Here's another look at myths that generated a truckload of angry fan mail, prompting Jamie and Adam to put them back under the microscope. In Split Arrow, the three" mythkateers" take their best shots at busting this myth again — with surprising results. Fans were not impressed when the Confederate Rocket was fuelled with paraffin; instead, they insisted on a "salami" launch. In Bulletproof Water, Adam and Jamie explored the depth of survival when shot at underwater.

And:

Episode 30: Son of a Gun
It's survived untried for nearly 150 years: The myth of the Civil War soldier who was shot clean through his nether regions and the nearby woman who became pregnant when hit by the traveling bullet. Good luck, Jamie and Adam! Then the two test just how dangerous it is to use the telephone or take a shower during a thunderstorm. Finally, Scottie and Kari attempt to re-create the voyage of a hapless pair of boating greenhorns who set out to sea without first detaching their boat from their car trailer.
premiere: March 30, 2005

Okay I've grown tired of trying to find the actual conclusions of these "Myths." One can purchase a video of it for $1.99. http://shopping.discovery.com/category-1_VIDEODOWNLOADS/3_VD_SER_MYTHBUSTERS-28723.html?jzid=40588004-49-0

To submit a myth:

http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/talk/talk.html

mboyce
02-12-2008, 07:04 PM
All of the "pain" balls I have seen, seemed to be swaged balls, and do not have a sprue from the mold. Were they swaging round balls at this time?

Evan3MD
02-14-2008, 06:09 PM
I never heard of Pain bullets but I have heard of soldiers chewing on bullets on a hot day to get their saliva going.

TimKindred
02-14-2008, 08:49 PM
I never heard of Pain bullets but I have heard of soldiers chewing on bullets on a hot day to get their saliva going.

Comrade Evan,

if you think it through, you'll understand that this is also a myth. Ammunition is issued in fixed rounds. A soldier would have to take out a round from his box and break it open, inwrapping the ball in order to suck on it. Then he'd have to stick it in a pocket and carry it around.

The bain of any soldier is excess weight. In "Hard marching Every Day" Wilbur Fisk's memoirs, he talks about agonising over what to take in his knapsack in the spring of '63, prior to what would be the Chancellorsville campaign. He speaks of men leaving behind cans of food, discussing whether it is worth lugging a can of peaches, paring down to the bare essentials knowing full well he'd have to carry it with him.

Now compare that with what one Southern article reccomended: using a common pebble to increase salivation, and chewing on a spring of mint to cool the air.

I'd consider that myth busted.. :)

doc paul
02-20-2008, 09:26 AM
On the topic of biting bullets and local pain relief, Dr. Chisolm, in his 1861 tretise on military surgery advocates the sub-cutaneous use of morphine as a local anestehetic and chloroform as a general. In his third revision from 1864, he continues to recomend the same treatments for pain. Topical use of opium was also mentioned in both versions. True that all pistol loads issue were conical bullets but there were some 41 Springfields still using buck and ball ..... a 69 caliber round ball and 3ea 44 caliber buck shots. I have also noted the deformations that Noah mentioned after firing into dirt. I have read that hogs were attracted to the flesh of the dead and may have rooted around for a through and through bullet lodged in the ground. Many veterans have been quoted about the wild hog problem in and around many battle fields.
YOS
Paul W

NoahBriggs
04-14-2008, 08:44 AM
Thanks to a posting on the Daybreak B'hoys discussion list I got a link to the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. I thumbed through the definitions at random and I cam across this definition -

nightingale (Grose 1811 Dictionary)
nightingale
A soldier who, as the term is, sings out at the halberts. It is a point of honour in some regiments, among the grenadiers, never to cry out, become nightingales, whilst under the discipline of the cat of nine tails; to avoid which, they chew a bullet. [Emphasis mine]

Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.

I don't know what conclusion to draw from it, as I would wonder what the author's source was for the definition - in other words, he was collecting slang. Thus there may be conflicting definitions.

Pvt Schnapps
04-22-2008, 03:48 PM
Noah, I suspect that biting the bullet is more expression than fact, for reasons discussed earlier, like where are they supposed to come from and what about the threat of swallowing and weren't there objects that would work better.

But that's just opinion. As far as actual tooth marks on actual bullets, I can state as an incontrovertible fact that the common gray squirrel will happily chew on a minie ball.

There's no citation here, just first hand observation from perhaps one of the few people you know who ever had both in his study at the same time. If I remember, I'll show it to you the next time we run into each other.

Her name was Jenny, which also happened to be the name of Karl Marx's wife, but oddly enough that was just coincidence.

nightstalker
02-06-2012, 12:26 AM
Curiosity has me ask, did any of these conical balls with tooth marks have rifling marks on them as well? Regarding the possibility of a pig leaving their tooth impressions on the bullets doesn't sound right to me, after having watched pigs totally pulverize dry corn cobs and grain pellets in seconds, makes me think that a bullet of pure soft lead would not have much of a chance maintaining any kind of shape at all.
Another thought - here in my State, the DEP passed a law some years back, forbidding the use of lead ammo while migritory bird hunting due to the birds being poisoned by the lead. Apparently, the birds would eat the fallen shot. So, if birds and pigs like to eat lead, perhaps other animals would have the taste for lead as well.
I remember fishing with my grandfather as a child and using split shot line weights. They would be squeezed onto the line with your teeth. Didn't take much to flatten that small weight out flat. I remember that the lead had a sweet taste to it. Could be the reason why they would be sucked on to quench thirst.
My thoughts, Thanks,
Nightstalker

Chris G.
02-06-2012, 02:51 AM
I think it's entirely possible that bullets were used for a way to combat screaming in pain. Are there any references from the period of soldiers "biting the bullet" for this purpose? Yes. There are references to it already posted in this thread. I'm sure also, that there are hucksters out there passing off fakes. Besides, where were all these bullet biting hogs at, when the ANV was starving to death? Seems to me, that if they were close enough to wander in to abandoned field hospitals or areas where the dead were gathered for burial, that eventually a starving soldier would have stumbled across one and put a bullet in it. I know if i was starving, and there were hogs around...I'd have been eating "high on the hog" ;)

I am a hunter and angler, and an avid outdoorsman. I would suppose that any soldiers in the ANV from rural areas were also. If there were game such as deer, hog, rabbits, game birds, etc. around that foraging parties would have found them.

Regards,
Chris Graves

GeorgeWunderlich
02-06-2012, 12:56 PM
Sounds like a MythBusters job to me!

It has already been done. University of Minn. Milwaukee School of Dentistry has done the test and proven two points:

1) The human mouth can exert enough force to make a clear tooth mark in a bullet

2) Several originals were submitted for identification of the marks and they were human bite marks.

The NMCWM is getting ready to publish the findings BUT were are also looking into the reasons for the marks and trying to locate all period accounts that might help in understanding why they were bitten. We doubt any medical staff involvement but we want to be as sure as possible.

George Wunderlich
Executive Director
National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Pvt Schnapps
02-06-2012, 02:55 PM
A couple of thoughts. First, Laidley's article "Breech-Loading Musket" in the "United States Service Magazine," vol. 3 (January 1865) has the famous account of 27,574 muskets picked up at Gettysburg, 12,000 of which were double-loaded, and 6,000 of which had three to ten loads each. He states that, in the excitement of battle, "Oftentimes the cartridge was loaded without being first broken, and in many instances it was inserted, the ball down first." In the latter case, it's possible that the soldier bit down on the wrong end of the cartridge. If he was scared enough, he might bite hard enough to leave a mark.

Outside of battle, I don't know, but I can imagine soldiers biting bullets for pain if they were sitting up for certain minor but painful operations, like excising an in-grown toenail. In that case it might be a kind of folk anesthetic, such as already mentioned in regard to floggings.

As for the expression "to bite the bullet," I see a lot of speculation on line, some of which refers to biting cartridges rather than any medicinal end. But the practice of biting bullets predates cartridges. Back when the "shotte" loaded powder and ball separately, the mouth apparently served some as an improvised "ready bag." For example, there's this instruction from de Gheyn's 1607 "Exercise of Armes", addressing the 25th of the 42 commands for loading (and to think I once found nine commands confusing :) ):

"...and if he will shoote with a bullet he shall take the bullet with the same hand (wherewith he now hath the skowring stick shorter) out of his mouth or from thence where he carrieth his bullets, and with like quicknes put it into the mouth of the peece...."

johnduffer
02-06-2012, 04:38 PM
"...and if he will shoote with a bullet he shall take the bullet with the same hand (wherewith he now hath the skowring stick shorter) out of his mouth or from thence where he carrieth his bullets, and with like quicknes put it into the mouth of the peece...."

To think, if not for personal preference "biting the bullet" could just have easily come down to us as "taking the bullet from your pocket", "taking the bullet from your left hand", "taking the bullet from between your knees", etc, et al. ;) 'On such a trifle turns history'.

Pvt Schnapps
02-06-2012, 04:43 PM
"...and if he will shoote with a bullet he shall take the bullet with the same hand (wherewith he now hath the skowring stick shorter) out of his mouth or from thence where he carrieth his bullets, and with like quicknes put it into the mouth of the peece...."

To think, if not for personal preference "biting the bullet" could just have easily come down to us as "taking the bullet from your pocket", taking the bullet from your left hand", "taking the bullet from between your knees", etc, et al. ;) 'On such a trifle turns history'.

Loading a matchlock already requires about three hands but, yes, I'd enjoy seeing you demonstrate taking the bullet from between your knees.

Blair
02-06-2012, 05:24 PM
"...and if he will shooter with a bullet he shall take the bullet with the same hand (wherewith he now hath the scoring stick shorter) out of his mouth or from thence where he Garreth his bullets, and with like quickens put it into the mouth of the peece...."

To think, if not for personal preference "biting the bullet" could just have easily come down to us as "taking the bullet from your pocket", "taking the bullet from your left hand", "taking the bullet from between your knees", etc, et AL. ;) 'On such a trifle turns history'.

All of this, and the terminology smacks Matchlock historical time period.
John, can you relate any of your Quote to a spacific period in history? and does it relate to this period of history?

hanktrent
02-06-2012, 05:44 PM
In the other thread, I posted this link, which refers to Indians chewing lead to make or prepare bullets. See the footnote:

http://books.google.com/books?id=K4hBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA312&output=html&cd=1 (http://books.google.com/books?id=K4hBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA312&output=html&cd=1)


Hank Trent
hanktrent@gmail.com

Blair
02-06-2012, 05:45 PM
Human Dentition imprints are quite different than most other mammals, including the great Apes.
I can not recite specific documentation, but such studies on the "medicine balls" has been done for quite some time.
George Wunderlich's suggestions, in my opionion, should be explorered.
But then what do I know?

Spinster
02-06-2012, 06:00 PM
Before we become confused, it's not Mr Duffer's quote, but Mr Schaffner's.

Mr S made clear it was from a 1607 manual as he used it to make a relevant reasoned point to the discussion.

GeorgeWunderlich
02-07-2012, 02:08 PM
I just want to make the Museum's position clear. All period documentation that we have uncovered points to the fact that all surgical sources that have anything to say on the subject are unified; do NOT place anything in the mouth or the life of the patient is endangered. We do not believe that there was any official medical use of bullets for pain management and we believe this for all of the reasons stated clearly here by others.

We have spent many years joking that we need an ammunition crate marked "100 Rounds .577...medicinal use only!"

That said, with the recent confirmation of human bite marks in period ammunition by the dental school in MN., we now need to look further into our beliefs and find a possible explanation (many have also been stated here) with proper historical documentation. Once we have exhausted all possible avenues of research we will publish the combined scientific and historical date. We are trying to be both diligent and reasonable in our approach. The help that you have offered is another piece in an ever growing puzzle to help us understand the myth and it's origins.

George Wunderlich
Executive Director
National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Pvt Schnapps
02-07-2012, 06:20 PM
Here are some more citations, three of the period and one a little later referring to earlier practices. Hank Trent already gave us a link to the Murray quote, but I thought it worth typing in full since it's a twofer.

I have a couple questions for you, Mr. Wunderlich, if you don't mind -- did the analysts look at a number of "medicine bullets" and just found a certain percentage that were chewed by people? It would be interesting to know that percentage. I also wonder if they identified the kinds of bullet. Thanks!

“Biting the Bullet”

http://books.google.com/books?id=AXgUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA240&dq=%22biting+the+bullet%22&hl=en#v=onepage&q=%22biting%20the%20bullet%22&f=false

The Story of Montana by Kate Hammond Fogarty, 1916 pp. 239-240, the author describes an Indian’s custom of biting bullets before battle for luck, or as a form of prayer: “he bit the bullet so that it would not bite him.”

http://books.google.com/books?id=6JA9AAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA155&dq=load+%22from+his+mouth%22+bullet+OR+ball&hl=en#v=onepage&q=from%20his%20mouth&f=false

Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 1869,Vol. 38, Issues 223-228, p. 155. “This was the old style of hunting the buffalo when breech-loaders were unknown, and a short muzzle-loading rifle of large bore was used as the best arm... With such a weapon the hunter dispensed with a ramrod, charging his gun by simply pouring the powder into the barrel, and then dropping a bullet from his mouth into the gun, and sending the charge home by striking the butt of the rifle smartly on the pommel of the saddle.”


http://books.google.com/books?id=K4hBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA312&dq=load+%22from+his+mouth%22+bullet+OR+ball&hl=en#v=onepage&q=%22from%20his%20mouth%22&f=false

Travels in North America During the Years 1834, 1835, & 1836, Vol. I, pp. 312-313, Sir Charles Augustus Murray (1839): “then he took from his mouth a half-chewed bullet,* and, wrapping it in the same stuff, rammed it down also.” *[fn] “This method of making bullets is very common among the Indians who use guns. They will hunt all day with a piece of lead in their mouth, which they thus chew into form. Another object is hereby attained; if no water can be obtained, a piece of lead in the mouth excites the saliva and relieves the pains of thirst. I have more than once used one of my own rifle-balls for this purpose, and have experienced much relief from so doing.”

http://books.google.com/books?id=qVwAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA162&dq=load+%22from+his+mouth%22+bullet+OR+ball&hl=en#v=onepage&q=%22from%20his%20mouth%22&f=false

The Rover, Volume 2, (1844) p. 162 “The true secret of this quick loading was, that his gun was old, and, as he turned in the powder at the muzzle, primed herself – a bullet from his mouth followed, and he was ready to fire.”


The "quick-loading" methods probably wouldn't apply to the civil war because they refer to flintlocks self-primed by expanding the vent so some powder sent down the barrel would end up in the pan.

cwdoc45
02-09-2012, 01:32 AM
Dr. Robert Karczewski from Marquette University Dental School in Milwaukee, WI conducted research on some "human bit", Civil War bullets and reported that research at the 2011 Society of Civil War Surgeon's conference. The bullets were obtained from the Civil War Medical Museum in Frederick, MD and a private collection. Using the university electron microscope, his research concluded that some of the bullets tested had HUMAN TEETH MARKS. It is not often that a 40 year veteran professor of Dental Medicine does this type of research. The fact that he is a Civil War Medical reenactor since 125th Antietam does indicate an interest in the field.

So... it is a fact that bullets were bit but, the sample was small in the study, so the likelyhood of a large number of cases is still in question.

You should all attend the Society of CW Surgeons Conference in Columbus, GA on March 23-25, 2012. You might find the lectures interesting since this original research was
presented at that conference!

Becky Morgan
02-13-2012, 09:23 PM
We may agree that the bullets have human bite marks, but how can we be sure they were bitten by men in pain? I don't doubt that it happened sometimes. I also think that finding them among medical items is a fair sign that they may have been used for that purpose.

The bigger issue is that the general public thinks there was no pain relief available. That's when we could explain that someone might use a bullet in this way because he had to wait for morphine, because he had had all the surgeon could give him without overdosing and he still had pain, or because, like modern people, he had the idea that it would help somehow. After some of the descriptions of ambulance rides on rutted roads, I would expect wounded men to do darned near anything they thought would even have a chance of helping. It wouldn't mean the surgeons hadn't done their best, or thatnothing was available; even today, there are times when the best we can do is...the best we can do.